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The President's Plan to Reduce Violence, Improve School Climate, and Increase Access to Mental Health Services

The tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School sparked a national conversation about how we can make schools safer and improve access to mental health services. Vice President Biden led a to solicit input from various stakeholders on how to effectively decrease violence, improve school climate, and increase access to mental health services in schools. NASP was invited to participate in this conversation and released NASP's Recommendations for Comprehensive School Safety Policies. Based on the input from various stakeholders, President Obama released his plan to protect our children and communities by reducing gun violence. The full plan can be read here; however, there are key aspects that relate to school psychology.

President Obama's plan:

  • Calls for putting 1,000 school resource officers, school counselors, school psychologists, and school social workers in our schools.
  • Will help schools develop and implement emergency plans.
  • Will help 8,000 schools create safer and more nurturing school climates.
  • Requires the Department of Education to disseminate best practices regarding effective school discipline policies.
  • Will increase access to mental health services
  • Encourages professional development for teachers to better identify students who may be in need of mental health services.
  • Calls for a national dialogue on how to reduce the stigma associated with mental illness.

What is NASP Doing?

NASP has been involved with the White House, the Department of Education, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Department of Justice to provide guidance on how to most effectively implement policies and practices that will address school safety in a comprehensive manner. To that end, NASP has partnered with the National Association of Elementary School Principals, the National Association of Secondary School Principals, the American Association of School Counselors, the School Social Work Association of America, and the National Association of School Resource Officers to create a framework for effective school safety. NASP has also partnered with the National Association of Secondary School Principals to create resources for schools to use if they choose to conduct school assemblies on mental health. The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions will hold a hearing entitled “Safe and Supportive Schools: Lessons from the Field.” This hearing was originally scheduled for March 7th, but was rescheduled due to inclement weather. Benjamin Fernandez, a school psychologist in Loudoun County, will testify on behalf of NASP. We will post his written testimony here following the hearing. Additionally, on March 13th, NASP participated in a Town Hall in conjunction with the Department of Education and the National PTA. The focus of this town hall was how mental health services can help improve school safety. An archived webcast of the Town Hall can be accessed here.

What can you do?

If you have not already, familiarize yourself NASP's resources related to school safety and crisis:

Share these documents with your colleagues, school administrators, and district level officials. These documents act as guiding principles to help schools address school safety; if your school or district is not already implementing these practices or considering these points, these documents can serve as a conversation starter with the decision makers in your school and district. Additionally, it is critical that you advocate to become a part of your school or district level leadership team. As school psychologists, we have unique training in collecting and analyzing data to help ensure that school-wide systems are addressing the needs of the school and can help ensure that the appropriate prevention and intervention services are available for those students who need them. Therefore, it is critical that you advocate for representation on school and district level leadership teams tasked with addressing school climate, school safety, and school mental health.